[EDITOR’S NOTE: It appears that a “staff-level misunderstanding” led to Gabbard’s name not appearing on the letter reported below. See the end of the post for a more detailed explanation.]
Once again, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D–Hawaii, has made news for not doing something. In this case, it was by not joining with her 18 Democratic colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee in signing a Dec. 15 letter asking Secretary of State John Kerry to protect State Department employees from possible retribution from the incoming Trump Administration.
Here’s an excerpt from that letter:
We recently learned of reports that President-Elect Trump’s transition team has requested the names of individual employees who have worked on climate-change-related issues at the Department of Energy. We understand that the Department of Energy has rejected this request and will not single out individual employees.
This is the right decision, and, as members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, we urge State Department leadership to follow suit should a similar situation arise with regard to any of the Obama Administration’s policy priorities.
The Washington Post reported the existence of the letter the same day it was sent to Kerry. Though the story mentioned that “There’s no indication that the Trump team has asked the State Department to single out officials or contractors connected to any particular policy,” it further explained that “Democrats were taken aback by the Energy Department request and want to prepare for a wider purge effort.”
While the story specifically noted that “The only committee Democrat not to sign the letter was Rep. Tulsi Gabbard,” it contained no statement or explanation from Gabbard as to why she didn’t sign the letter. Gabbard’s press aides have not yet responded to an email from MauiTime asking for her reasoning, and she didn’t respond to a tweet yesterday from me asking the same question.
This is the second time in recent weeks that Gabbard has not signed onto a letter critical of the incoming Trump Administration that was generated by her Democratic colleagues. On Nov. 16, 169 House Democrats–not one of which was named “Tulsi Gabbard”–signed a letter to President-elect Trump denouncing his selection of white nationalist Stephen Bannon to be “chief strategist” (click here for my Nov. 18 story on the matter).
“Since the election there have been a number of incidents across the country in which minorities, including Muslim Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Jewish Americans, have been the targets of violence, harassment and intimidation,” states the letter. “Mr. Bannon’s appointment sends the wrong message to people who have engaged in those types of activities, indicating that they will not only be tolerated, but endorsed by your Administration. Millions of Americans have expressed fear and concern about how they will be treated by the Trump Administration and your appointment of Mr. Bannon only exacerbates and validates their concerns.”
Gabbard’s office also didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment on why she didn’t sign Bannon letter. But on Nov. 21, Gabbard met with Trump. After the meeting, she said they discussed Syria, ISIS and other foreign policy matters.
UPDATE: According to an email from Erika Tsuji, who handles press inquiries for Rep. Gabbard, this whole thing is due to a “staff-level misunderstanding.” Here’s here explanation:
“Tulsi’s name was inadvertently left off the letter due to a staff-level misunderstanding,” said Tsuji. “An updated letter was sent to Secretary Kerry with signatures from all Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (see the letter here).
“In short, the request to sign the letter came with a very quick turnaround while the congresswoman’s staff were in the middle of an office move with sporadic email / internet access. As soon as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard saw the letter, she added her name, and a revised copy was sent out.”
If you click on the link in Tsuji’s response, you’ll see the new letter, which includes Gabbard’s signature.
Photo courtesy Rep. Gabbard’s office